In the Castaic Union School District, this year’s focus is on hope for the district’s students, teachers, staff and administrators.
The unifying message to “Make Hope Happen CUSD” was shared with personnel during the district’s professional development day and welcome back breakfast at Castaic Middle School Tuesday.
“Our theme of ‘Make Hope Happen’ is a big deal. We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity as a district in the past and it was really time for us to move forward and inspire our staff to hope,” Superintendent Steve Doyle said.
Part of this push toward hope included a partnership with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to inform staff and teachers of the best ways to prepare for an active shooter situation.
Doyle said the district chose to include the active shooter training in this year’s professional development day after Doyle met Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station Capt. Robert Lewis.
“Captain Lewis is new and I had a chance to meet him and that is really one of his passions. For us, it’s something we had to put to the wayside as we dealt with some of the other things we’ve dealt with here in the district so it’s perfect timing,” Doyle said. “This is our one opportunity when we have the entire staff together so it was a good opportunity to share some of those strategies and those stories behind it and some of the skills as our taking off point.”
Titled “Surviving a Critical Incident: Employee Response to an Active Shooter Scenario,” the two-hour active shooter training provided information to teachers and staff on how to prepare and respond to an active shooter attack.
“We want to ensure that the teachers and faculty are acting affectively in dealing or in responding to an active shooter event,” said Sgt. Mike Harding, Tactical and Survival Trainer with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. “That helps us so we can deal with the actual bad guy and they can go in and shelter in place and take care of the kids while we are trying to deal with an actual threat.”
During his presentation, Sgt. Harding said his goal was to empower the audience as he provided information on how to they could protect themselves and others.
This included defense techniques—like using one’s body and personal belongings as weapons—and fighting back when it is necessary to do so.
“There are certain areas where you can be affective in affecting a bad guy,” Harding said of aiming for an assailant’s eyes, throat and hands. “There’s some point when you have to challenge this individual.”
Sgt. Harding also encouraged teachers and staff to develop a plan for survival that included sheltering in place, locking and barricading doors, going somewhere without windows and turning off the lights.
If individuals are outside during an active shooter situation, Harding recommended that they should run for the perimeter or find a nearby area to shelter in place.
He also shared FBI statistics about mass shooting incidents, the trends in attacks and the history and situations surrounding reported terrorist and mass shooting events.
“You have to prepare for these incidents,” Sgt. Harding said. “If you’re prepared for it you can increase your chance of survival.”
The training was the first stage of safety improvements for the district as it works with law enforcement to update its practices, alter its safety plans and secure its facilities.
“One of the things we want to do is sit down with law enforcement people and have them give us an assessment of what they think is valuable or not. They’re really the experts in the field and they can provide us with a lot of support,” Doyle said. “Our kids and our staff are of the utmost priority for safety here.”
The day was also a push toward creating a safe, nurturing, innovative environment for students before the district’s back to school nights Wednesday.
“For us having hope is really vital to setting that tone for our kids and so my plan was to really give people permission that it’s OK to be hopeful… We have amazing staff here and tremendous kids and families,” Doyle said. “We’re excited, we’re hopeful for a wonderful year and we’re excited to make hope happen.”
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